Four deaths have been registered in connection with the weekend’s sub-zero temperatures. Two men and one woman died from suspected hypothermia in different parts of the country on Friday night, when record low temperatures were seen in several places. Another person died on Saturday night. Three of the deceased were believed to have been from the homeless community, the most at risk section of society in such weather. Shelters in various parts of the country reported being filled to capacity. One, in the form of a boat on the River Vltava in Prague, housed over 160 people on Saturday night.
In related news, Prague is set to increase the capacity of shelters and
drop-in centres for the homeless by the year 2020, the Czech News Agency
reported. The city authorities will also put more effort into resocialising
the homeless, invest in social and starter flats and expand field
programmes, under a new plan due to be discussed by the city council in the
coming weeks. Around 4,000 people currently live on the streets of the
Czech capital, though that number is projected to increase to as many as
13,000 within seven years, according to the authors of the plan.
Tapestry tribute to Václav Havel unveiled at airport
A large tapestry dedicated to the late former president Václav Havel was unveiled at Prague’s recently renamed Václav Havel Airport on Sunday. The French-made tapestry is based on a painting created by the award-winning Czech-born artist Petr Sís and originally published in the newspaper Hospodářské noviny on the day of Mr. Havel’s funeral last December. The work was the idea of the organisation Art for Amnesty and has been funded by a group of admirer’s of Czechoslovakia’s first post-Communist president, including rock stars such as Sting and members of U2.
The average Czech family are planning to spend around CZK 4,000 (around USD 200) on their Christmas dinner and tree, according to survey conducted by the STEM/MARK agency for the company Home Credit. Three quarters of respondents said they were planning to have a traditional Czech Christmas, spending the festive season with their families and eating carp on the evening of December 24. Over 80 percent of those polled said they planned to buy presents in traditional shops, though an analyst for Home Credit said a surprising number of the over 60s were making purchases online this year.
Three people who committed suicide together at Roblín near Prague at the end of November met on the internet. Police were baffled when two men, of 39 and 27, and a woman of 37 from different corners of the Czech Republic were found dead in a car in the town. A police spokesperson said on Saturday that it had been ascertained that the three had met on an internet chat site; they had all been depressed for some time and agreed that while they did not want to go on living they could not face committing suicide on their own.
The first ever two-day “festival of open cellars” was held in Brno at the weekend. Underground spaces at around 30 spots in the Czech Republic’s second city have been opened to the public for the weekend, including the casemate at the Špilberk Castle, cellars beneath medieval arches, basement wine bars and restaurants and a number of spots not normally accessible to the public.
The chairman of the Czech Football Association, Miroslav Pelta, has asked for help from European soccer’s governing body UEFA in connection with a case of alleged corruption. Mr. Pelta said on a television debate programme on Sunday that he had requested the intervention of UEFA because of the behaviour of Tomáš Paclík, the owner of Viktoria Plzeň, who have been accused of corrupt practices by the owner of Sparta Prague Daniel Křetínský and a former referee, who said he had been paid to influence a game in Plzeň’s favour. The Czech FA chief said Mr. Paclík’s method of communication had exceeded the boundaries of good ethics and that he felt under great pressure. Plzeň, who led the Czech league going into the winter break, strenuously deny any wrongdoing.
Police wiretaps of MP David Rath and others implicating them in corruption are admissible as evidence in court, Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Saturday. Mr. Rath, who was also governor of the Central Bohemia Region at the time of his arrest in May, and his co-accused contested the validity of the recordings at the Constitutional Court, which rejected their appeal, the newspaper wrote. The former health minister and two associates have been charged with corruption involving millions of crowns and are expected to appear in court in the New Year.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, has questioned the wisdom of the mooted appointment of Karolina Peake to the post of defence minister. Mr. Klaus said on Friday that he did not believe that burly soldiers would not accept such a “little girl” (“dívenka”) as head of the army, or that the leader of the coalition’s smallest party LIDEM could become an expert on the army overnight. Mrs. Peake said she would try to persuade the president that she wasn’t a fragile little girl, adding that ministries were usually headed by politicians, not always experts in the given field. Prime Minister Petr Nečas has said he will announce the names of new defence and transport ministers next week.
Mr. Klaus, who steps down as president after two terms in March, also slammed the introduction of a direct presidential vote as populist nonsense that would come back to haunt its backers. It was a mistake to think the public would choose his successor, he said, it was actually the media who would select the president and the public would merely ratify their choice in two rounds of voting set to take place on the second and third weekends of January. The president said the big parties were already aware that they had scored an own goal by supporting a direct vote, a change which had been discussed for many years before being approved by Parliament in the summer.
The Communist Party will recommend that their supporters vote for one of two left-wing politicians standing for the post of president. Both Social Democrat MP Jiří Dienstbier and Miloš Zeman, a former Social Democrat prime minister, asked the Communists to give them their backing. But after a meeting on Saturday the Communists, who are not fielding a candidate of their own, said they hoped their voters would support one or other of the two. Party leader Vojtěch Filip said that while Mr. Zeman was more experienced and a better speaker, Mr. Dienstbier was stronger in the field of foreign policy.